Sarko vs. Royal, Don't Read if You Don't Give A Phoque About French Presidential Politics

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Very depressing result, but more or less what I predicted (apart from the Front National slump). I don't think Royal has a chance in hell. But I never thought she did in the first place. She's a very weak candidate, clueless politically, and a cold fish in the personality stakes. A lot of people are scared of Sarko, and if only the Socialists had put up a solid candidate they would have been in with a very good chance. Royal has been a catastrophe.

underpants of the gods, Monday, 23 April 2007 10:11 (ten years ago) Permalink

fingers crossed

RJG, Monday, 23 April 2007 10:12 (ten years ago) Permalink

Huh that's weird - I could have sworn last night that they were reporting 11% for him in Paris. Your number makes me feel better! I should have read an English-language account, I guess.

Say that all the Le Pen voters go for Sarko, Bayreau's voters split down the middle, and the Communists, Revolutionary Communists, Trotskyists etc. vote for Sego. That gives Sarko 51% and Sego about 45%. That looks bad, but if Sego can swing just another 1/6th of Bayreau's supporters over to her she could have a chance.

Everything I've read about this for the last three months has presented it as a fait accomplit for Sarko. The unanimity of the conventional wisdom is very suspicious to me. I feel like the media have chosen their script and will repeat it till it's pried from their cold, dead hands: "French people want a strong leader" "Sego has not been bold enough" "Sarko the only viable option" etc etc

underpants would you mind explaining exactly why and how Sego has been a catastrophe? I feel like I don't know the whole story here.

Tracer Hand, Monday, 23 April 2007 10:21 (ten years ago) Permalink

I mean surely "clueless politically" is an inaccurate description of someone who has a realistic chance at the presidency of France?

Tracer Hand, Monday, 23 April 2007 10:28 (ten years ago) Permalink

sounds, mainly, like she has been v vague/flip-floppy/non-commital on policy and has been caught out, a couple of times, when talking about international stuff

however, she hasn't, recently, been quoted as saying that people are genetically predisposed to paedophilia, etc

she's certainly not a catastrophe, in terms of polling, compared to jospin in 2002

RJG, Monday, 23 April 2007 10:37 (ten years ago) Permalink

xpost ha.

being half french i've come to live with and accept my mental and physical disgust for le pen, and be practical about it. 4th place comes as a pleaseant surprise for this jade, especially consideing recent events and campaign rhetoric/tone on all sides. let's hope that was merely talk eh, and sarko's more concilliatory spirit eg last night will prevail. maybe it was just clothes-stealing.

Frogman Henry, Monday, 23 April 2007 10:38 (ten years ago) Permalink


Bayou voters splitting evenly in the 2nd round is a very optimistic assumption, I'd say that they'll go 2/3 Sarko and 1/3 Sego.

You can also add Villiers' 2,5% and Nihout 1% to Sarko and that puts him really beyond reach.

baaderonixx, Monday, 23 April 2007 10:41 (ten years ago) Permalink

Why do I keep spelling Bayrou's name wrong? Is it because everyone always pronounces it wrong?

You're probably right about that vote not splitting evenly. Feck. I think a lot of his votes were "protest" votes but yeah, his policies don't much match up with what a Sego supporter would want to see go down.

Tracer Hand, Monday, 23 April 2007 10:46 (ten years ago) Permalink


Royal has committed gaffe after gaffe, some of them so abysmal that they left me thinking 'I could do better than that!'. She was perceived to be weak on foreign policy. So she went on various foreign visits to change that perception - only she ended up making herself look even worse. The first trip was to Lebanon, where she sat through a speech by a Hezbollah guy in which he said Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth. Royal applauded. Later, she said her interpreter hadn't properly translated the guy, otherwise she would have walked out. OK, I'll give her the benefit of the doubt there. Next up, she went to China, met some judges there, and said that France could learn a lot from the speed of the Chinese judicial system. A judicial system that every year expedites thousands of people to their deaths, that allows little freedom of speech, that is totally beholden to a single political party... Next up, she declared her support for Quebec sovereignty, earning a rebuke from the Quebec premier. She later compounded the gaffe when she was tricked by a radio DJ into thinking she was talking to the Quebec premier. During that conversation she told him that a lot of French people would like to see the back of Corsica, "but don't tell anyone that or I'll have another scandal on my hands". During a televised debate she appeared not to know what the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty entails. Only a few days ago, during an interview she appeared to believe the Taliban were still in control of Afghanistan... and that's only some of her gaffes!

underpants of the gods, Monday, 23 April 2007 10:48 (ten years ago) Permalink

i roffled over that quebec thing.

Frogman Henry, Monday, 23 April 2007 10:50 (ten years ago) Permalink

Intent polls for 2nd round give Sarko 52-54 and Sego 46-48. Bayrou voters are indeed around 2/3 Sarko. All in all, it is difficult to see how Sego has any chance.

Le Pen's 11.5% make it seem like he suffered a set back whereas in fact he got just about the same number of people voting for him this time than he did in 2002 ( around 4m voters). The very good participation in this poll (around 84%) has made it such that what once was a 17% first round score is now only an 11.5% one.

Jibe, Monday, 23 April 2007 10:53 (ten years ago) Permalink

xpost That's what I thought. Everything you mention is trivial. Whether she clapped at a certain time or not. Getting pranked. Having a quote about China taken out of context. Once a couple of these things happen and the narrative gets written it's a dead cert the media will land on her head like a mountain if they see the slightest hair out of place. It is such bullshit. It's how Bush got sent to the White House, through an endless series of mainly invented "gaffes" by Gore.

Tracer Hand, Monday, 23 April 2007 11:09 (ten years ago) Permalink

I watched the debate during which she clearly didn't know what the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty meant. Given the situation with Iran, that's not trivial. Recently, she was caught talking about "le gouvernement taliban"; was given an opportunity to say it was a slip of the tongue, but declined. During the campaign she's been all over the shop, making a sloppy play for the extreme right saying all French people should have a tricolor in their front window and recalcitrant children should be sent to boot camps. She's not had a good campaign - she's poor with detail, no better with the big picture. It's a bit too neatly cynical to put all that down to media spin.

underpants of the gods, Monday, 23 April 2007 11:18 (ten years ago) Permalink

Tracer OTM. But of course he's not french, sexism is not a virtue in other countries.
and you know what ? it worked. i've even heard people who are not die-hard sarkozystes (i don't know if it's underpant's case) repeat these inepties. for some reason they never talk about sarkozy's "gaffes" : paedophilia is genetic, al quaida are shi'ites, etc... (i could go on forever)

brunob, Monday, 23 April 2007 11:36 (ten years ago) Permalink

for some reason they never talk about sarkozy's "gaffes"

Sarkozy's "gaffe" about paedophilia being genetic was hardly ignored, it was a huge media story! I'm not so convinced it was a gaffe as such, though. It's a bit like "racaille" and "karcher". On the face of it gaffes, but ultimately they've bolstered his image and support. That's not to say Sarkozy hasn't made some serious errors; he has. But not nearly as many as Royal. As for sexism, yes I think it's played a part as well, perhaps slicing one or two percentage points off Royal's vote. (It cuts both ways though. The novelty value of having a woman candidate probably gave her a slight edge over the "éléphants" during the candidacy election.)

underpants of the gods, Monday, 23 April 2007 11:50 (ten years ago) Permalink

it's a detail, but the Royal quote about the Talibans is much more ambiguous than that. She argues that the international community should do more against the "taliban system", which could mean the movement itself. Anyway, yeah these "gaffes" stories are grotesque and just feeds the typical French dream of an omniscient professor/candidate. The type of reasoning that has given us Juppé, Villepin, etc.

baaderonixx, Monday, 23 April 2007 12:56 (ten years ago) Permalink

Narrative: Royal is flighty, air-headed, not "serious", unreliable - a woman. Everything she says, if seen through this lens, can be made to back it up. The Taliban "gaffe" being a particularly egregious example of the way these things work.

None of this is to deny that there does seem to be a real interest in an authoritarian leader in France.

Tracer Hand, Monday, 23 April 2007 13:05 (ten years ago) Permalink

There is, but I still nevertheless find Royal to be a pretty weak candidate. The contrast last night between Sarkozy's "victory" speech and hers was pretty emblematic of why she's gonna get trounced in the 2nd round. A cheap but effective "look at me now ma', I made it to the top, all thanks to the French dream" vs. a dull, awkwardly-read rant so predictable that hardly anyone will remember today.

baaderonixx, Monday, 23 April 2007 13:11 (ten years ago) Permalink

I was going to mention her awful like-a-robot-reading speech of yesterday, too.

I'm sympathetic to the idea that the right have basically rolled out Tracer Hand's "narrative". But I don't think it's been swallowed hook line and sinker by the French media. And I don't think that this attempt to manipulate the discourse changes the fact that she's been a poor candidate and that's much of the reason she's not going to be elected. In any case, even if her gaffes are trivial matters of presentation (although I think there's a little more to it than that), a good candidate should nonetheless be able to maintain some control over presentation. The narrative of "woman candidate = helpless victim of machinations" is just as mythical as the one Tracer outlined.

underpants of the gods, Monday, 23 April 2007 13:21 (ten years ago) Permalink

the main reason I wanted carcetti (royal) to win was so there might be some chance of clay davis (chirac) getting what he deserves

that's the only level on which that "THE WIRE"-based analogy works, though

RJG, Monday, 23 April 2007 13:28 (ten years ago) Permalink

I've not heard that particular narrative repeated or put forward by anyone. So I guess that makes it a REALLY mythical narrative. Especially since so many male political hopefuls have been trashed in exactly the same way (interestingly, often by being painted as feminized, e.g. Gore and his female advisor who purportedly tried to teach him to be an "alpha male"; John Kerry and his suspicious "sophistication"; John "Breck Girl" Edwards' haircuts are a recent example). These aren't mythical narratives, they're real and they change the course of history. Royal is supposed to be a lightweight, to not understand the gravity of her position; the implication is that she will embarrass France in front of the world with her unreliability - all incredibly gendered narratives, and all deployed relentlessly by her opponents. The press frames ongoing events within this narrative simply because it fits in neatly with how a lot of French people think about women in positions of tangible political power. It just FEELS so right. Once the narrative gets set, it is incredibly hard to shift. Mainly because the press are literally lazy. Why do comparative policy analysis, compare public opinion on specific policy issues with those of the candidates, etc. when one can just bolt the latest trivia onto the pre-existing narrative, pretending that each insignificant nugget represents some telling clue into the candidate's soul. Why go through the trouble of looking at what each of the candidates has actually said and what the implications of those things are for France's future when one can pore over incredibly important things like whose pre-runoff speech was more convincing?

Tracer Hand, Monday, 23 April 2007 13:45 (ten years ago) Permalink

i'm sure if france had a 2-party tradition, the center-left would never have put up a bayrou instead of the politically clueless royal and we would be right here in the same place, only faster. comment on dit "electability"?

gabbneb, Monday, 23 April 2007 14:29 (ten years ago) Permalink

let's also take a moment of thanks for the protesters and the great revolution they led

gabbneb, Monday, 23 April 2007 14:31 (ten years ago) Permalink

Bayrou's party (UDF) isn't center-left, it's right-wing! As for the rest of your post, and the one that follows it, I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about.

Tracer Hand, Monday, 23 April 2007 14:37 (ten years ago) Permalink


Absolutely. And her eloquence is just another part of this narrative.
Jospin was just like her : his speechs were cold, rigid, he couldn't communicate with people,etc... he was a robot ! that's what we used to say. But what did it mean ? it meant he was serious, he wasn't a demagogue (and no i didn't find sarkozy's speech "cheap and effective" yesterday but truly disgusting). (and not only Jospin but also Juppé, Rocard...)
But with Royal it's another evidence of her weakness.

brunob, Monday, 23 April 2007 14:39 (ten years ago) Permalink

and i'm not saying all these attacks are sexist. as Tracer said this strategy was also used against men, i'm just saying it worked pretty well because she's a woman.

brunob, Monday, 23 April 2007 14:42 (ten years ago) Permalink

Hmmm, I'm having mixed feelings on this issue, ie. robot vs demagogue. I agree with you that on the substance, Sarkozy's speech was as repulsive as all his previous statements, but "sur la frome" the contrats between someone (seemingly) speaking without notes with Royal's drone was pretty striking. Sure, one can always argue that it's not with eloquence that you run a country, but it sure helps when trying to win an election.

baaderonixx, Monday, 23 April 2007 14:48 (ten years ago) Permalink

This is so depressing. Even in Paris Le Pen got 11%. I was talking with the lovely Emma B about this, expressing my dismay and confusion that 11% of Parisian voters would vote that way and saying that a third-party right-wing presidential candidate in the US would never get 11% of the vote in New York City, for instance, and she reminded me that "Paris is a very conservative city".

-- Tracer Hand, Monday, 23 April 2007 09:48 (4 hours ago)

I used to think think, too, but then I actually read Le Pen's program closely (and the other guy De Villiers as well) and realized that in concrete terms none of this even compares to the Bush presidency. A comparison with a US extreme right-wing is difficult to make for that reason; Le Pen's immigration policy doesn't consist of building a wall around the country (though he admires the one in Mexico), and on the environment he's actually like a Green Party candidate compared to Bush.

riche, Monday, 23 April 2007 14:50 (ten years ago) Permalink

I saw Sarko's speech lastnight as a premature declaration of victory, as he was literally imitating Chirac's actions when he won the actual presidency. Given the French attitude on such things, I assumed Ségolène was going for the classier, humbler approach and betting on Sarko's (quite visible) glee betraying him. He does give a much better speech though.

riche, Monday, 23 April 2007 14:52 (ten years ago) Permalink

not much point is there?


RJG, Monday, 23 April 2007 14:53 (ten years ago) Permalink


Tracer, the fact that the Right is trying to paint Royal as a lightweight using a gendered narrative is not in doubt. It's connected to, but different from, the question of whether she actually is a lightweight. By all means let's do comparative policy analyses and compare public opinion on specific policy issues. I'm not arguing that her policies are wrong; in fact I think they're more right than wrong. I'm arguing that she's been an incredibly weak advocate for them. A leader must also be able to effectively sell his or her project to the people it is going to impact on, otherwise nothing happens (vide: every French government ever going back on reform once they encounter street opposition). In other words, presentation matters very much to actual outcomes, as you rightly say, and a good leader is one who is able to seize the narrative. That Royal has been largely unable to do this, and has been unable to project an image of competency, is in itself a sign of poor leadership. It's simply too easy to blame this on some sort of media/right-wing collusion, particularly in a country where the media is less right-wing than in Britain and the United States.

underpants of the gods, Monday, 23 April 2007 14:55 (ten years ago) Permalink

Paris results here :

brunob, Monday, 23 April 2007 14:59 (ten years ago) Permalink

I guess not, RJG (xpost.)

It's difficult to judge, but I actually think the "gendered narrative" is not a huge factor, and the "omg socialists commie reds taking over" vs. "liberalism = we're all rich" is the bigger issue everyone always comes back to here. Which is politics in a nutshell since um, forever it seems.

riche, Monday, 23 April 2007 14:59 (ten years ago) Permalink

particularly in a country where the media is less right-wing than in Britain and the United States

i'm not so sure. actually i think it's even worse, the right comparison is probably italy and berlusconi

brunob, Monday, 23 April 2007 15:01 (ten years ago) Permalink

Come on. There's no Fox News in France.

underpants of the gods, Monday, 23 April 2007 15:04 (ten years ago) Permalink

of course. i meant maybe less right-wing but also less independant. it doesn't matter how much right-wing they are as long as they support sarko.

brunob, Monday, 23 April 2007 15:06 (ten years ago) Permalink

What do you mean by less independent?

riche, Monday, 23 April 2007 15:13 (ten years ago) Permalink

Don't forget that France's ONLY daily left-wing newspaper has been working with a skeleton crew for months now, and is still printing only because the employees raised holy hell, demanding to stay open until the elections. Dark mutterings have been voiced about the possibility that Lib&233#;'s swift collapse following its acquisition by Eduoard de Rothschild (not exactly a progressive dude) might have been... the point of the acquisition in the first place.

Tracer Hand, Monday, 23 April 2007 15:22 (ten years ago) Permalink

um, Lib&233# = Libé

Tracer Hand, Monday, 23 April 2007 15:22 (ten years ago) Permalink


Tracer Hand, Monday, 23 April 2007 15:22 (ten years ago) Permalink

Yeah, true. Also true that the country's "paper of record", Le Monde, is centre-left. Also, newspapers are probably a lot less important in France than the UK, they have a much smaller readership.

underpants of the gods, Monday, 23 April 2007 15:25 (ten years ago) Permalink

what i meant (x-post)

a) a long tradition of deference toward the political power in place
b) the fact that sarko is a close friend of several big "patrons de presse" (sorry i don't know the english word) : Lagardere, Rothschild...

brunob, Monday, 23 April 2007 15:26 (ten years ago) Permalink

Press barons

Michael White, Monday, 23 April 2007 15:33 (ten years ago) Permalink

Le Monde is about as center-left as the New York Times, i.e. not really

Tracer Hand, Monday, 23 April 2007 15:34 (ten years ago) Permalink

A girl told me she submitted a blank vote, as in an empty ballot. What is the point of this? Why not just stay home? Can anyone explain it?

riche, Monday, 23 April 2007 15:35 (ten years ago) Permalink

Thanks Michael.
yeah i disagree with Le monde being centre-left. It used to be but now Plenel left and both Minc and Colombani officially support Sarkozy.

brunob, Monday, 23 April 2007 15:37 (ten years ago) Permalink

(btw hi baaderonixx!! how's belgium?)

riche, Monday, 23 April 2007 15:40 (ten years ago) Permalink


The deference thing is true. You'd never get a French version of Jeremy Paxman, that's for sure.

On the other hand, there is also a tradition of investigative journalism particularly with satirical magazines like Charlie Hebdo and Le Canard Enchainé, which regularly break political stories and uncover political scandals.

<i>Le Monde is about as center-left as the New York Times, i.e. not really</i>

Well, maybe it's no longer centre-left, but it's not exactly right wing either. I guess we'll soon see who it comes out for.

underpants of the gods, Monday, 23 April 2007 15:41 (ten years ago) Permalink

I'm not sure you could really identify an editorial line in Le Monde, but it sure does seem to have an agenda (most of the time, helping those in power to stay there, cf. Balladur in 1995). The fact that Minc is pretty explicit in his support of Sarko, combined with Colombani's recent editorial, would seem to confirm this.

baaderonixx, Monday, 23 April 2007 15:50 (ten years ago) Permalink

Only one percent of Muslims voted for Sarko.

Michael White, Monday, 23 April 2007 17:42 (ten years ago) Permalink

I have always been committed to European integration and it's sad that it's become the bugbear of French politics. There was nary a real reformer among the candidates except perhaps the tepid Bayrou and the numbers behind Le Pen and Melanchon are proof of a certain tradition of delusion among French voters.

L'ennui, cette maladie de tous les (Michael White), Friday, 4 May 2012 14:00 (five years ago) Permalink

I don't think it's particular to france tho...that element exists throughout europe

iatee, Friday, 4 May 2012 14:02 (five years ago) Permalink

Even Italy which has a tendency to be as ridiculous as possible has the Monti govmt.

L'ennui, cette maladie de tous les (Michael White), Friday, 4 May 2012 14:49 (five years ago) Permalink

the problem with european integration is also that it has become a scapegoat for most politicians. if something doesn't seem to be working well, there's a 90% chance they'll lay the blame on european legislation. and when most of the things you hear about europe are about how its ruinng stuff, well then you're far less likely to actively root for it. as for bayrou i feel kind of bad for the guy. he's seriously probably the only candidate who offered reasoned, well-thought through solutions to tackle the economic crisis, yet no one really cares about him.

tbh i feel like a lot about politics in france is being influenced by shows like les guignols de l'info. i'd be curious to know if the flamby nickname that stuck to hollande came from that show for example (flamby is a flan-like dessert). that show also ruined bayrou's credibility a long time ago with the bus du colza and other stuff. i'd really love to read an informed study on that topic.

Jibe, Saturday, 5 May 2012 15:12 (five years ago) Permalink

hollande beats sarkozy, as expected. however he does so without handing sarkozy the beating that was talked about. 51.7% of the votes for him.

Jibe, Monday, 7 May 2012 03:43 (five years ago) Permalink

over 70% turnout is really impressive in the context of...everywhere else in western europe. is this par for the course in france?

liberté, égalité, beyoncé (lex pretend), Monday, 7 May 2012 08:40 (five years ago) Permalink

The first round was over 80%, i think. Lower than 2007, though.

Just like you, except hot (ShariVari), Monday, 7 May 2012 09:13 (five years ago) Permalink

i'd be curious to know if the flamby nickname that stuck to hollande came from that show for example (flamby is a flan-like dessert)

flamby en flambé!

(annoyingly i don't think the expression "on fire" translates the same in french, and i have a suspicion "en flambé" isn't accurate anyway)

liberté, égalité, beyoncé (lex pretend), Monday, 7 May 2012 09:30 (five years ago) Permalink

the turnout is not particularly exceptional for a presidential election, as its been over 70% most of the time. for other elections i'm pretty sure the turnout is just as bad as it is elsewhere

xpost : not sure what you're trying to say with en flambé there so i'm gonna say you're right to be suspicious there

Jibe, Monday, 7 May 2012 09:38 (five years ago) Permalink

i think he's trying to say that hollande is "on fire" i.e. "doing great"

TracerHandVEVO (Tracer Hand), Monday, 7 May 2012 13:50 (five years ago) Permalink

that's what i thought but felt like maybe he was talking about a new dessert, flamby flambé

Jibe, Monday, 7 May 2012 15:12 (five years ago) Permalink

i'd be curious to know if the flamby nickname that stuck to hollande came from that show for example

It looks like it came from Jack Lang, though Montebourg has used it too.

L'ennui, cette maladie de tous les (Michael White), Monday, 7 May 2012 17:43 (five years ago) Permalink

i read somewhere that bruno gaccio (the guignols de l'info guy) used that name as a general comment on the PS but that he now regretted having made this a huge thing.

Jibe, Tuesday, 8 May 2012 03:04 (five years ago) Permalink

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